Today’s society seems more and more out of touch with the basic principles of honesty and fairness. It seems that all we see today on the news is violence and corruption. The definition and meaning ethical behavior seems to have been lost along the way. Ethical behavior is acting in ways that are consistent with what a person and the society consider as being good values. Ethical behavior consists of respecting some basic moral principles like: honesty, fairness, equality, respecting the dignity, diversity and rights of other people. Basically, acting ethically means doing the right thing in any given situation. Everything we do is a choice, so ethical behavior is always choosing the right thing to do no matter what the context is. Of course the line between the right thing and the wrong thing can be very sketchy in some situations, so a broader definition, with every principle explained seems to be in order.
So, ethical behavior consists of sticking to these values that are commonly accepted as being good:
· Honesty. The definition and meaning social behavior wouldn’t be complete without the term of honesty. It basically means to always be truthful, but it also entangles other virtues such as integrity and straightforwardness. Confucius defines three levels of honesty starting from shallow to sincere. The first level consists of being honest for your own personal gain. The second level is based on the idea that you will be honest because that’s how you would like to be treated by others. The last level and the most sincere consist of feeling empathy towards everyone no matter of race color or creed.
· Fairness. This is the quality that consists of treating everybody as they deserve to be treated. The way you treat somebody if you are fair, should reflect how that person has treated you and what the persons behavior is in general towards other people. It basically means that you shouldn’t have prejudices about anybody and treat them based solely on the merit of their actions.
· Equality. In the definition and meaning of social behavior equality takes center stage, because it’s one of the most common things that people don’t respect in our modern society. It’s hard to treat everybody with the same measure because we can only be subjective and our relation with somebody can sometimes affect our judgment. Equality is based on the fact that you shouldn’t be bias towards anybody.
· Acting scrupulously. This means that you should be very careful in how you chose to stand up for what you believe. It means that you shouldn’t do things half-heartedly, things that are important toy you should be treated as such. It shows a lack of character if you don’t stand up for what you believe in and more importantly, if you don’t really understand what it is you care about. Most people just hear something that they think should be part of their moral code and leave it as such. They don’t think in depth about it and don’t really feel passionate about it. It’s just something that they have the impression that it would fit them. These are the cases where it becomes really hard to take a stand for what you believe in because you aren’t even sure that that is what you believe in and it shows.
· Empathy. This is the quality of acting with concern for other people, being able to put yourself in somebody else’s place and trying to feel what they feel. If you can do that, you will probably treat everybody else fairly and honestly.
· Respecting everybody else’s diversity. Being able to understand that everybody is different in their own way isn’t something that most people can do easily. The comfort of being part of a group and feeling that you belong to that group will turn some people into fanatics, and it will make them lash out at everybody else that isn’t part of that group and doesn’t believe in what he believes.
Of course there are other concepts that can be used in the definition and meaning ethical behavior, but these are the most important. Ethical behavior is closely related to the education a person receives in their childhood, to that point where they understand the difference between right and wrong. It’s very hard to teach someone ethical behavior after they become mature, because the basic principles that govern his life have already been deeply embedded. The basic rewards of acting ethically are not so easily seen at first, so it is possible that some people will feel that everybody else is corrupt so why would they try to be different. But in the bigger picture trying to act according to the intrinsic values of the society can only lead to a better understanding between people.